The Ass Loaded With Sponges, and the Ass Loaded With Salt By Jean de La Fontaine’s Fables

A man, whom I shall call an ass-eteer,
His sceptre like some Roman emperor bearing,
Drove on two coursers of protracted ear,
The one, with sponges laden, briskly faring;
The other lifting legs
As if he trod on eggs,
With constant need of goading,
And bags of salt for loading.
Over hill and dale our merry pilgrims passed,
Till, coming to a river’s ford at last,
They stopped quite puzzled on the shore.
Our asseteer had crossed the stream before;
So, on the lighter beast astride,
He drives the other, spite of dread,
Which, loath indeed to go ahead,
Into a deep hole turns aside,
And, facing right about,
Where he went in, comes out;
For duckings two or three
Had power the salt to melt,
So that the creature felt
His burdened shoulders free.
The sponger, like a sequent sheep,
Pursuing through the water deep,
Into the same hole plunges
Himself, his rider, and the sponges.
All three drank deeply: asseteer and ass
For boon companions of their load might pass;
Which last became so sore a weight,
The ass fell down,
Belike to drown,
His rider risking equal fate.
A helper came, no matter who.
The moral needs no more ado—
That all can’t act alike,—
The point I wished to strike.

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